Presidential Cabinets, Electoral Cycles, and
Coalition Discipline in Brazil
OCTAVIO AMORIM NETO*
Recent works on Latin American presidentialism (Amorim Neto 1998; Deheza 1998; Thibaut 1998) indicate that the frequency of coalition governments in this area is higher than expected by comparative theorists of this system of government (Jones 1995; Lijphart 1992; Linz 1994). While such a finding reveals that Third World presidential democracies are able to devise extraconstitutional means by which the crisis proclivity of minority presidents can be overcome, it remains to be seen whether multiparty presidential cabinets can work as parliamentary-style coalitions that in general display a high degree of unity on the floor of parliament and operate in conjunction with the executive to promote legislation.
Brazil is a good starting point to tackle this question. There is an ongoing debate in the comparative presidentialism literature about Brazil's prevalent pattern of government formation. On the one hand, Abranches (1988), Deheza (1997, pp. 192–230), and Meneguello (1998) contend that all Brazilian presidents appoint coalition governments. On the other, Amorim Neto (1994, 1995) and Thibaut (1996, pp. 282–321) caution against a loose application of the concept of coalition government to presidential systems and argue that other types of cabinets also have been formed in this country. While Abranches, Deheza, and Meneguello simply____________________